Posts Tagged ‘screen’

Heroes of Might and Magic 2: Best old-school turn based strategic game to play on your Android mobile phone

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Reading Time: 5minutes


Probably many people which are my age (I'm aged 30 now), spent many days and sleepless nights being totally addicted playing probablyone of the most addictive (and in my view greatest strategy game of all time) – Heroes of Might and Magic II (HOMM2).
In that thoughts it will be a great news for you if you're owning smartphone that you can turn-back some nice memories and play (for free) a port of Heroes 2 for Android.

Free Heroes 2 Android port is it is made to support multiple screened devices so game  version could be played on both Android Tablet a tiny screen smart phone or a middle sized mobile. Also Free Heroes 2 mobile port allows you to choose 'The Magnifying glass' option on first game boot, so if you're on a tiny screened mobile you can still zoom by pointing on a game object. Free Heroes 2 Android port is there thanks toGerhard Stein who is also an author of OpenTyrian mobile phone port and the amazing old computer jump-and-run arcadeCommander Keen. Game pointer controls of FHeroes2 are pretty convenient and playing the game is almost as confortable as played with a PC mouse.
Free Heroes 2 is port of Free Heroes 2 engineFree implementation of Heroes of the Might and Magic II engine in SDL and because SDL is platform independent Free Heroes is also available for both Windows / Linux. Maybe here is time too mention that Heroes2 original DOS game works perfectly on any modern Linux distribution when started through DOSBOX DOS emulator.

By default Free Heroes2  has no game campaign support yet. In order to enable campaing support into Free Heroes 2, download FULL Heroes 2 gameput data files to mobile SD card to dir app-data/net.sourceforge.fheroes2 and campaign option will be there too.


Heroes of Might and Magic 2 – The succession Wars (or HEROES2, as it is widely known in Gamers communities) is a turn based strategy game  from year 1996 developed by Jon Van Caneghem by his New World Computing company it was marketed under on the market under brand of 3DO Company. Heroes II was voted the sixth-best PC game of all time by PC Gamer in May 1997. Heroes2 has also a game expansion pack called the Price of Loyalty released in 1997 as well as Heroes of Might and Magic II – Gold – from 1998. The game graphic design looks very beautiful and combined with the soundtrack makes playing it an awesome and calming experience. The game is very notable especially for soundtrack which is all of a beautiful classical music.

(Picture taken and copyrighted by Wikipedia)


The titular heroes (horse) are player characters who can recruit armies, move around the map, capture resources, and engage in combat. The heroes also incorporate some role-playing game elements; they possess a set of statistics that confer bonuses to an army, artifacts that enhance their powers, and knowledge of magical spells that can be used to attack enemies or produce strategic benefits. Also, heroes gain experience levels from battle, such that veteran heroes are significantly more powerful than inexperienced ones.

On a typical map, players begin a game with one town of a chosen alignment. Each town alignment hosts a unique selection of creatures from which the player can build an army. Town alignment also determines other unique traits such as native hero classes, special bonuses or abilities, and leanings toward certain skills or kinds of magic.


Towns play a central role in the games since they are the primary source of income and new recruits. A typical objective in each game is to capture all enemy towns. Maps may also start with neutral towns, which do not send out heroes but may still be captured by any player. It is therefore possible, and common, to have more towns than players on a map. When captured, a town retains its alignment type, allowing the new owner to create a mixed army. A player or team is eliminated when no towns or heroes are left under their control. Usually the last player or team remaining is the victor.

As heroes visit special locations called obelisks, pieces are removed from a jigsaw puzzle-like map, gradually revealing 'The Ultimate Artifact location to the player. Once found, it confers immense bonuses to the player capable of breaking a stalemate: the grail can be taken back to a town and used to build a special structure, while the ultimate artifact provides the bonuses directly through possession.


Whenever a player engages in battle

The game changes from the adventure map display to a combat screen, which is based on either a hexagonal or square grid. In this mode, the game mimics the turn-based tactics genre, as the engaged armies must carry through the battle without the opportunity to reinforce or gracefully retreat. With few exceptions, combat must end with the losing army deserting, being destroyed, or paying a heavy price in gold to surrender. Surrendering allows the player to keep the remaining units intact. Battles can be led army army to army or castles / villages can be fight and (captured) occupied. Owning a town gives your hero daily an income of money later used to buy and upgrade castle buildings.


Also you your moved heroes could overtake mines producing different goods like minerals, sulfur, gold, emeralds etc. Building different buildings and building war units for army usually cost gold and some kind of resource.

Game Story

Heroes II history continues afterHeroes I. Ending of Heroes I results in Lord Morglin Ironfist's victory. In the following years, he has successfully unified the continent of Enroth and secured his rule as king. Upon the king's death, his two sons, Archibald and Roland, vie for the crown. Archibald orchestrates a series of events that lead to Roland's exile. Archibald is then declared the new king, while Roland organizes a resistance. Each alignment is represented by one of the game's two campaigns. Archibald's campaign features the three "evil" town alignments, while Roland's campaign features the three "good" town alignments.

If Archibald is victorious, Roland's rebellion is crushed, and Roland himself is imprisoned in Castle Ironfist, leaving Archibald the uncontested ruler of Enroth. The  ending, however, results in Roland's victory, with Archibald being turned to stone by Roland's court wizard, Tanir.

If you're more interested to play modern games and get some more games modern games more entertaining take a look at Kevin Martin's JoyofAndroid Best Adnroid Games post here.


Upgrade Debian Linux 9 to 10 Stretch to Buster and Disable graphical service load boot on Debian 10 Linux / Debian Buster is out

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Reading Time: 5minutes


I've just took a time to upgrade my Debian 9 Stretch Linux to Debian Buster on my old school Laptop (that turned 11 years old) Lenovo Thinkpad R61 . The upgrade went more or less without severe issues except few things.

The overall procedure followed is described n a few websites out there already and comes up to;


0. Set the proper repository location in /etc/apt/sources.list

Before update the sources.list used are:

deb [arch=amd64,i386] buster main contrib non-free
deb-src [arch=amd64,i386] buster main contrib non-free


deb [arch=amd64,i386] buster/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src [arch=amd64,i386] buster/updates main contrib non-free

deb [arch=amd64,i386] buster-updates main contrib non-free
deb-src [arch=amd64,i386] buster-updates main contrib non-free

deb buster-backports main

For people that had stretch defined in /etc/apt/sources.list you should change them to buster or stable, easiest and quickest way to omit editting with vim / nano etc. is run as root or via sudo:

sed -i 's/stretch/buster/g' /etc/apt/sources.list
sed -i 's/stretch/buster/g' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/*.list

The minimum of config in sources.list afterthe modificationshould be

deb buster main
deb buster-updates main
deb buster/updates main

Or if you want to always be with latest stable packages (which is my practice for notebooks):

deb stable main
deb stable-updates main
deb stable/updates main


1. Getting list of hold packages if such exist and unholding them, e.g.


apt-mark showhold

Same could also be done via dpkg

dpkg –get-selections | grep hold

To unhold a package if such is found:

echo "package_name install"|sudo dpkg –set-selections

For those who don't know what hold package is this is usually package you want to keep at certain version all the time even though after running apt-get upgrade to get the latest package versions.

2. Use df -h and assure you have at least 5 – 10 GB free space on root directory / before proceed

df -h /

3. Update packages list to set new set repos as default

apt update


4. apt upgrade

apt upgrade

Here some 10 – 15 times you have to confirm what you want to do with configuration that has changed if you're unsure about the config (and it is not critical service) you're aware as such as Apache / MySQL / SMTP etc. it is best to install the latest maintainer version.

Hopefully here you will not get fatal errors that will interrupt it.

P.S. It is best to run apt-update either in VTTY (Virtual console session) with screen or tmux or via a physical tty (if this is not a remote server) as during the updates your GUI access to the gnome-terminal or konsole / xterm whatever console used might get cut. Thus it is best to do it with command:

screen apt upgrade


5. Run dist-upgrade to finalize the upgrade from Stertch to Buster


Once all is completed of the new installed packages, you will need to finally do, once again it is best to run via screen, if you don't have installed screen install it:


if [ $(which screen) ]; then echo 'Installed'; else apt-get install –yes screen ; fi

screen apt dist-upgrade

Here once again you should set whether old configuration to some e services has to stay or the new Debian maintainer package shipped one will overwrite the old and locally modified (due to some reason), here do wisely whatever you will otherwise some configured services might not boot as expected on next boot.


6. What if you get packages failed on update

If you get a certain package failed to configure after installed due to some reason, if it is a systemd service use:


journalctl -xe |head -n 50

or fully observer output of journalctl -xe and decide on yourself.

In most cases

dpkg-reconfigure failed-package-name

should do the trick or at least give you more hints on how to solve it.


Also if a package seems to be in inconsistent or broken state after upgrade  and simple dpkg-reconfigure doesn't help, a good command
that can help you is


dpkg-reconfigure -f package_name


or you can try to workaround a failed package setup with:

dpkg –configure -a

If dpkg-reconfigure doesn't help either as I experienced in prior of Debian from Debian 6 -> 7 an Debian 7 ->8 updates on some Computers, then a very useful thing to try is:

apt-get update –fix-missing 

apt-get install -f

At certain cases the only work around to be able to complete the package upgrade is to to remove the package with apt remove but due to config errors even that is not possible to work around this as final resort run:

dpkg –remove –force-remove-reinstreq


7. Clean up ununeeded packages


Some packages are left over due to package dependencies from Stretch and not needed in buster anymore to remove them.

apt autoremove


8. Reboot system once all upgrade is over




9. Verify your just upgraded Debian is in a good state


root@noah:~# uname -a;
Linux noah 4.19.0-5-rt-amd64 #1 SMP PREEMPT RT Debian 4.19.37-5 (2019-06-19) x86_64 GNU/Linux


root@noah:~# cat /etc/
Debian GNU/Linux 10


root@noah:~# lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID:    Debian
Description:    Debian GNU/Linux 10 (buster)
Release:    10
Codename:    buster


root@noah:~# hostnamectl
   Static hostname: noah
         Icon name: computer-laptop
           Chassis: laptop
        Machine ID: 4759d9c2f20265938692146351a07929
           Boot ID: 256eb64ffa5e413b8f959f7ef43d919f
  Operating System: Debian GNU/Linux 10 (buster)
            Kernel: Linux 4.19.0-5-rt-amd64
      Architecture: x86-64


10. Remove annoying picture short animation with debian logo looping



By default Debian 10 boots up with annoying screen hiding all the status of loaded services state .e.g. you cannot see the services that shows in [ FAILED ] state and  which do show as [ OK ] to revert back the old behavior I'm used to for historical reasons and as it shows a lot of good Boot time debugging info, in previous Debian distributions this was possible  by setting the right configuration options in /etc/default/grub

which so far in my config was like so

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash scsi_mod.use_blk_mq=y dm_mod.use_blk_mq=y zswap.enabled=1 text"

Note that zswap.enabled=1 passed option is because my notebook is pretty old machine from 2008 with 4GB of memory and zswapdoes accelerate performance when working with swap – especially helpful on Older PCs for more you can read more about zswap on ArchLinux wiki
After modifying this configuration to load the new config into grub the cmd is:


As this was not working and tried number of reboots finally I found that annoying animated gif like picture shown up is caused by plymouth below is excerpts from Plymouth's manual page:

       "The plymouth sends commands to a running plymouthd. This is used during the boot process to control the display of the graphical boot splash."

Plymouth has a set of themes one can set:


# plymouth-set-default-theme -l


I tried to change that theme to make the boot process as text boot as I'm used to historically with cmd:

update-alternatives –config text.plymouth

As after reboot I hoped the PC will start booting in text but this does not happened so the final fix to turn back to textmode service boot was to completely remove plymouth

apt-get remove –yes plymouth

xorg on Toshiba Satellite L40 14B with Intel GM965 video hangs up after boot and the worst fix ever / How to reinstall Ubuntu by keeping the old personal data and programs

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Reading Time: 4minutes

black screen ubuntu troubles

I have updated Ubuntu version 9.04 (Jaunty) to 9.10 and followed the my previous post update ubuntu from 9.04 to Latest Ubuntu

I expected that a step by step upgrade from a release to release will work like a charm and though it does on many notebooks it doesn't on Toshiba Satellite L40

The update itself went fine, whether I used the update-manager -d and followed the above pointed tutorial, however after a system restart the PC failed to boot the X server properly, a completely blank screen with blinking cursor appeared and that was all.

I restarted the system into the 2.6.35-28-generic kernel rescue-mode recovery kernel in order to be able to enter into physical console.

Logically the first thing I did is to check /var/log/messages and /var/log/Xorg.0.log but I couldn't find nothing unusual or wrong there.

I suspected something might be wrong with /etc/X11/xorg.conf so I deleted it:

ubuntu:~# rm -f /etc/X11/xorg.conf

and attempted to re-create the xorg.conf X configuration with command:

ubuntu:~# dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

This command was reported to be the usual way to reconfigure the X server settings from console, but in my case (for unknown reasons) it did nothing.

Next the command which was able to re-generate the xorg.conf file was:

ubuntu:~# X -configure

The command generates a xorg.conf sample file in /root/xorg.conf.* so I used the conf to put it in /etc/X11/xorg.conf X's default location and restarted in hope that this would fix the non-booting issue.

Very sadly again the black screen of death appeared on the notebook toshiba screen.
I further thought of completely wipe out the xorg.conf in hope that at least it might boot without the conf file but this worked out neither.

I attempted to run the Xserver with a xorg.conf configured to work with vesa as it's well known vesa X server driver is supposed to work on 99% of the video cards, as almost all of them nowdays are compatible with the vesa standard, but guess what in my case vesa worked not!

The only version of X I can boot in was the failsafe X screen mode which is available through the grub's boot menu recovery mode.

Further on I decided to try few xorg.conf which I found online and were reported to work fine with Intel GM965 internal video , and yes this was also unsucessful.

Some of my other futile attempts were: to re-install the xorg server with apt-get, reinstall the xserver-xorg-video-intel driver e.g.:

ubuntu:~# apt-get install --reinstall xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-video-intel

As nothing worked out I was completely pissed off and decided to take an alternative approach which will take a lot of time but at least will probably be succesful, I decided to completely re-install the Ubuntu from a CD after backing up the /home directory and making a list of available packages on the system, so I can further easily run a tiny bash one-liner script to install all the packages which were previously existing on the laptop before the re-install:

Here is how I did it:

First I archived the /home directory:

ubuntu:/# tar -czvf home.tar.gz home/

For 12GB of data with some few thousands of files archiving it took about 40 minutes.

The tar spit archive became like 9GB and I hence used sftp to upload it to a remote FTP server as I was missing a flash drive or an external HDD where I can place the just archived data.

Uploading with sftp can be achieved with a command similar to:

Connected to
sftp> put home.tar.gz

As a next step to backup in a file the list of all current installed packages, before I can further proceed to boot-up with the Ubuntu Maverich 10.10 CD and prooceed with the fresh install I used command:

for i in $(dpkg -l| awk '{ print $2 }'); do
echo $i; done >> my_current_ubuntu_packages.txt

Once again I used sftp as in above example to upload my_current_update_packages.txt file to my FTP host.

After backing up all the stuff necessery, I restarted the system and booted from the CD-rom with Ubuntu.
The Ubuntu installation as usual is more than a piece of cake and even if you don't have a brain you can succeed with it, so I wouldn't comment on it 😉

Right after the installation I used the sftp client once again to fetch the home.tar.gz and my_current_ubuntu_packages.txt

I placed the home.tar.gz in /home/ and untarred it inside the fresh /home dir:

ubuntu:/home# tar -zxvf home.tar.gz

Eventually the old home directory was located in /home/home so thereon I used Midnight Commander ( the good old mc text file explorer and manager ) to restore the important user files to their respective places.

As a last step I used the my_current_ubuntu_packages.txt in combination with a tiny shell script to install all the listed packages inside the file with command:

ubuntu:~# for i in $(cat my_current_ubuntu_packagespackages.txt); do
apt-get install --yes $i; sleep 1;

You will have to stay in front of the computer and manually answer a ncurses interface questions concerning some packages configuration and to be honest this is really annoying and time consuming.

Summing up the overall time I spend with this stupid Toshiba Satellite L40 with the shitty Intel GM965 was 4 days, where each day I tried numerous ways to fix up the X and did my best to get through the blank screen xserver non-bootable issue, without a complete re-install of the old Ubuntu system.
This is a lesson for me that if I stumble such a shitty issues I will straight proceed to the re-install option and not loose my time with non-sense fixes which would never work.

Hope the article might be helpful to somebody else who experience some problems with Linux similar to mine.

After all at least the Ubuntu Maverick 10.10 is really good looking in general from a design perspective.
What really striked me was the placement of the close, minimize and maximize window buttons , it seems in newer Ubuntus the ubuntu guys decided to place the buttons on the left, here is a screenshot:

Left button positioning of navigation Buttons in Ubuntu 10.10

I believe the solution I explain, though very radical and slow is a solution that would always work and hence worthy 😉
Let me hear from you if the article was helpful.

How to enable VirtualBox Windows XP FullScreen with VboxGuestAdditions.iso on Ubuntu 11.10 Linux

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Reading Time: 2minutes

Right after installing Windows XP inside VirtualBox, I've found out everything works fine except the screen. Even though pressing (Right CTRL + F) was changing the Windows XP running window to FullScreen the XP screen was taking only a part of the whole screen area, where almost half of the screen was visible as simply staying blank.

A bit of research and I found the issue is caused by missing VirtualBoxGuestAdditions .

VBoxAdditions is a package which should be installed inside the VirtualBox by navigating to Devices -> Install Guest Additions

Virtualbox offers a download of a VboxGuestAdditions_4.1.2_Ubuntu.iso from url;, anyways this download fails since the URL is currently unavailable.

To fix this two ways are possible:

1. Download VBoxGuestAdditions.iso from here and put it in directory /usr/share/virtualbox , e.g.:

root@ubuntu:~# cd /usr/share/virtualbox
root@ubuntu:/usr/share/virtualbox# wget

2. Download and install virtualbox-guest-additions-iso_4.1.2-1_all.deb

root@ubuntu:~# wget
root@ubuntu:~# dpkg -i virtualbox-guest-additions-iso_4.1.2-1_all.deb

Next to enable and install guest additions once again use menus:

Devices -> Install Guest Additions

VirtualBox Install Guest Additions Ubuntu Screenshot

The screen to appear next will be similar to:

VBox guest Additions windows Ubuntu

Further on follow the few dialogs to complete the installations and integration of Guest Additions and restart the Virtual machine and hooray the Windows will appear in Full screen in VirtualBox ! 😉

Monitor General Server / Desktop system health in console on Linux and FreeBSD

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Reading Time: 2minutes

is a text based ncurses program to display live statistics about general system health.

It displays in one refreshable screen (similar to top) statistics about server state of:
CPU, Load, Memory, Swap, Network, I/O disk operations
Besides that saidar supports a ncurses console colors, which makes it more funny to look at.
Saidar extracts the statistics for system state based on libgstrap cross platform statistics library about pc system health.

On Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS Linuxes saider is available for install straight from distribution repositories.
On Debian and Ubuntu saidar is installed with cmd:

debian:~# apt-get install saidar

On CentOS and Fedora saidar is bundled as a part of statgrab-tools rpm package.
Installing it on 64 bit CentOS with yum is with command:

[root@centos ~]# yum install statgrab-tools.x86_64

Saidar is also available on FreeBSD as a part of the /usr/ports/devel/libgstrab, hence to use on my FreeBSD I had to install the libgstrab port:

freebsd# cd /usr/ports/devel/libstatgrab
freebsd# make install clean

Here is saidar running on my Desktop Debian on Thinkpad in color output:

debian:~# saidar -c

Saidar Linux General statistics Screenshot

I've seen many people, who use various shell scripts to output system monitoring information, this scripts however are often written to just run without efficiency in mind and they put some let's say 1% extra load on the system CPU. This is not the case with saidar which is written in C and hence the program is optimized well for what it does.

Update: Next to saidar I recommend you check out Slurm (Real Time Network Interface Monitor) it can visualizes network interface traffic using ascii graph such as on top of the article. On Debian and Ubuntu Slurm is available and easily installable via simple:

apt-get install –yes slurm


How to take multiple screenshots with scrot and ImageMagick import commands in terminal on GNU / Linux and FreeBSD

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Reading Time: 3minutes

scrot and import are two commands, which can be used to take screenshot in terminal on Linux and FreeBSD:

To use scrot cmd to take screenshots on Ubuntu and Debian the scrot package has to be installed:

noah:~# apt-get install scrot

scrot should also be available on most other Linux distributions in the main repositories, I'll be glad to hear if someone has used it on Fedora, SUSE etc.

On FreeBSD, there is a port called scrot , to install on FreeBSD:

freebsd# cd /usr/ports/graphics/scrot
freebsd# make install clean

Scrot has plenty of nice arguments one can use to make a screenshot. Maybe the most handy one in my view is after a preliminary set delay before screenshot is taken.

To take screenshot with it after lets say 5 seconds delay before the screenshot:

hipo@noah:~/Desktop$ scrot -t 20 -d 5

Screenshot scrot my debian Linux gnome-termina

To put an year, month and day and year followed by screen resolution with scrot :

hipo@noah:~$ scrot '%Y-%m-%d_$wx$h.png'

Another way to take a screenshot of screen with command is by using ImageMagick'simport image manipulation package.
To take screenshot of the current screen via terminal using import , type in xterm, gnome-termina or Gnome's Run Application (ALT+F2)

hipo@noah:~$ import -window root ScreenShot.png

To make import command to save the taken screenshot in a format (minute:hour:day:month:year)i :

hipo@noah:~$ import -window root $screenshot_dir/screenshot-$(date +%M_%k_%d_%m_%Y|sed -e 's/^ *//').png

Taking a delayed screenshot is also possible via The GIMP via menus File -> Create -> Screenshot

GIMP Screenshot 15 seconds delay GIMP window screenshot

Now here is an interesting question, what if I would like to take periodic screenshots of what I do on my Desktop to take random movie scenes from a movie I watch with totem or vlc??

This task is quite easily achiavable with a little bash shell script, I wrote:

if [ ! -d "$screenshot_dir" ]; then
mkdir $screenshot_dir;
while [ 1 ]; do
sleep $seconds;
(import -window root $screenshot_dir/screenshot-$(date +%M_%k_%d_%m_%Y|sed -e 's/^ *//').png) &

This script will take screenshot automatically to Screenshots/ directory every (1 min – 60 seconds)
You can also my downloads here

To use just issue the script inside xterm or gnome-terminal, after that simply use your computer as you normally would.
The script will take snapshots every minute and store all taken screenshots in Screenshots dir.

If you prefer to use scrot to take automatically the screenshots every lets say 5 minutes, you can use a script like:

# 300 secs (5 mins)seconds='300';
if [ ! -d "$screenshot_dir" ]; then
mkdir $screenshot_dir;
while [ 1 ]; do
sleep $seconds;
(scrot $screenshot_dir/'%Y-%m-%d_$wx$h.png') &

You can fetch here

The script using scrot is better in terms of efficiency, the system load scrot will put on your machine will be less.
Using some of this scripts will be handy if you need screenshots to Movies, Programs and favourite Free Software games.
Hope this is educative to someone 😉

How to promptly interrupt Windows shutdown in case of shutdown, restart mistake

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Reading Time: < 1minute

Its really annoying, when some Anti-Virus software or application updates itself and requires a Windows restart. It is even more annoying when you have 50 windows opened and suddenly they start closing one by one. In such cases it is precious to know there is way to Cancel Windows Shutdown using command line:

Just press Windows (button) + R: type in;

shutdown /a

and press enter.

That's it a quick cmd prompt will flash through the screen and Windows will stop shutdowning 🙂 Enjoy

Quick shortcut to lock your Linux computer desktop (Few words on Linux screensavers)

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Reading Time: 2minutes

Locking the PC while going for a coffee break, Lunch or toilet is longly used to secure physically your PC display from spying eyes or prevent you from  someone to install a spying software or leak private data from PC HDD to an USB drive.
People who are coming from the wonderful MS Windows OS   are certainly used to quick shortcut key combination to lock PC screen with:

Windows key + L


So how to do Lock Screen on Linux?

On Linux locking your Screen the Quick Shortcut is:


Locking the screen is done (depending on the Linux distribution) by using by either using historically famous XScreenSaver if non-gnome / KDE graphical environemnt is used or if in Linux Gnome GUI with  gnome-screensaver and on KDE desktop manager with kscreenlocker.


Exact command executed on CTRL + ALT + L keypress on GNOME is:

gnome-screensaver-command -l

On KDE to manually lock screen command is:


Nomatter whether with GNOME or KDE its worthy mention that xscreensaver is more Screensaver rich than kscreenlocker and gnome-screensaver as it includes about 200 different Screensavers making screen nice to watch when you come back from a lunch.

For people with Windows key keyboard who are too used to using Windows XP / 7 lockreen WIN + L key shortcut to make Windows (key) + L keys combination work on Linux with GNOME desktop:

System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts

Make Win + L keys combination work on Linux with KDE desktop

  1.  "System Settings" (KDE menu).
  2. Choose "Keyboard & mouse" (on "General" tab).
  3. Choose "Global Keyboard Shortcuts" on the left.
  4. Choose "Run Command Interface" from "KDE component" dropdown list.
  5. Choose "Lock session".
  6. Select "Custom".
  7. Click on "None" (button changes to "Input…").
  8. Compose your desired sequence by pressing appropriate buttons on your keyboard.
  9. Click "Apply".


For other desktop environments like Window Maker you can use xmodmap command to bind Win + L keys

Tracking I/O hard disk server bottlenecks with iostat on GNU / Linux and FreeBSD

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Reading Time: 7minutes

Hard disk overhead tracking on Linux and FreeBSD with iostat

I've earlier wrote an article How to find which processes are causing hard disk i/o overhead on Linux there I explained very rawly few tools which can be used to benchmark hard disk read / write operations. My prior article accent was on iotop and dstat and it just mentioned of iostat. Therefore I've wrote this short article in attempt to explain a bit more thoroughfully on how iostat can be used to track problems with excessive server I/O read/writes.

Here is the command man page description;
iostatReport Central Processing Unit (CPU) statistics and input/output statistics for devices, partitions and network filesystems

I will further proceed with few words on how iostat can be installed on various Linux distros, then point at few most common scenarious of use and a short explanation on the meaning of each of the command outputs.

1. Installing iostat on Linux

iostat is a swiss army knife of finding a server hard disk bottlenecks. Though it is a must have tool in the admin outfut, most of Linux distributions will not have iostat installed by default.
To have it on your server, you will need to install sysstat package:

a) On Debian / Ubuntu and other Debian GNU / Linux derivatives to install sysstat:

debian:~# apt-get --yes install sysstat

b) On Fedora, CentOS, RHEL etc. install is with yum:

[root@centos ~]# yum -y install sysstat

c) On Slackware Linux sysstat package which contains iostat is installed by default. 

d) In FreeBSD, there is no need for installation of any external package as iostat is part of the BSD world (bundle commands).
I should mention bsd iostat and Linux's iostat commands are not the same and hence there use to track down hard disk bottlenecks differs a bit, however the general logic of use is very similar as with most tools in BSD and Linux.

2. Checking a server hard disk for i/o disk bottlenecks on G* / Linux

Once having the sysstat installed on G* / Linux systems, the iostat command will be added in /usr/bin/iostat
a) To check what is the hard disk read writes per second (in megabytes) use:

debian:~# /usr/bin/iostat -m
Linux 2.6.32-5-amd64 (debian) 03/27/2012 _x86_64_ (8 CPU)
avg-cpu: %user %nice %system %iowait %steal %idle
15.34 0.36 2.76 2.66 0.00 78.88
Device: tps MB_read/s MB_wrtn/s MB_read MB_wrtn
sda 63.89 0.48 8.20 6730223 115541235
sdb 64.12 0.44 8.23 6244683 116039483
md0 2118.70 0.22 8.19 3041643 115528074

In the above output the server, where I issue the command is using sda and sdb configured in software RAID 1 array visible in the output as (md0)

The output of iostat should already be easily to read, for anyone who didn't used the tool here is a few lines explanation of the columns:

The %user 15.34 meaning is that 15.34 out of 100% possible i/o load is generad by system level read/write operations.
%nice – >Show the percentage of CPU utilization that occurred while executing at the user level with nice priority.
%iowait – just like the top command idle it shows the idle time when the system didn't have an outstanding disk I/O requests.
%steal – show percentage in time spent in time wait of CPU or virtual CPUs to service another virtual processor (high numbers of disk is sure sign for i/o problem).
%idle – almost the same as meaning to %iowait
tps – HDD transactions per second
MB_read/s (column) – shows the actual Disk reads in Mbytes at the time of issuing iostat
MB_wrtn/s – displays the writes p/s at the time of iostat invocation
MB_read – shows the hard disk read operations in megabytes, since the server boot 'till moment of invocation of iostat
MB_wrtn – gives the number of Megabytes written on HDD since the last server boot filesystem mount

The reason why the Read / Write values for sda and sdb are similar in this example output is because my disks are configured in software RAID1 (mirror)

The above iostat output reveals in my specific case the server is experiencing mostly Disk writes (observable in the high MB_wrtn/s 8.19md0 in the above sample output).

It also reveals, the I/O reads experienced on that server hard disk are mostly generated as a system (user level load) – see (%user 15.34 and md0 2118.70).

For all those not familiar with system also called user / level load, this is all kind of load which is generated by running programs on the server – (any kind of load not generated by the Linux kernel or loaded kernel modules).

b) To periodically keep an eye on HDD i/o operations with iostat, there are two ways:

– Use watch in conjunction with iostat;

[root@centos ~]# watch "/usr/bin/iostat -m"
Every 2.0s: iostat -m Tue Mar 27 11:00:30 2012
Linux 2.6.32-5-amd64 (centos) 03/27/2012 _x86_64_ (8 CPU)
avg-cpu: %user %nice %system %iowait %steal %idle
15.34 0.36 2.76 2.66 0.00 78.88
Device: tps MB_read/s MB_wrtn/s MB_read MB_wrtn
sda 63.89 0.48 8.20 6730255 115574152
sdb 64.12 0.44 8.23 6244718 116072400
md0 2118.94 0.22 8.20 3041710 115560990
Device: tps MB_read/s MB_wrtn/s MB_read MB_wrtn
sda 55.00 0.01 25.75 0 51
sdb 52.50 0.00 24.75 0 49
md0 34661.00 0.01 135.38 0 270

Even though watch use and -d might appear like identical, they're not watch does refresh the screen, executing instruction similar to the clear command which clears screen on every 2 seconds, so the output looks like the top command refresh, while passing the -d 2 will output the iostat command output on every 2 secs in a row so all the data is visualized on the screen. Hence -d 2 in cases, where more thorough debug is necessery is better. However for a quick routine view watch + iostat is great too.

c) Outputting extra information for HDD input/output operations;

root@debian:~# iostat -x
Linux 2.6.32-5-amd64 (debian) 03/27/2012 _x86_64_ (8 CPU)
avg-cpu: %user %nice %system %iowait %steal %idle
15.34 0.36 2.76 2.66 0.00 78.88
Device: rrqm/s wrqm/s r/s w/s rsec/s wsec/s avgrq-sz avgqu-sz await svctm %util
sda 4.22 2047.33 12.01 51.88 977.44 16785.96 278.03 0.28 4.35 3.87 24.72
sdb 3.80 2047.61 11.97 52.15 906.93 16858.32 277.05 0.03 5.25 3.87 24.84
md0 0.00 0.00 20.72 2098.28 441.75 16784.05 8.13 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00

This command will output extended useful Hard Disk info like;
r/s – number of read requests issued per second
w/s – number of write requests issued per second
rsec/s – numbers of sector reads per second
b>wsec/s – number of sectors wrote per second
etc. etc.

Most of ppl will never need to use this, but it is good to know it exists.

3. Tracking read / write (i/o) hard disk bottlenecks on FreeBSD

BSD's iostat is a bit different in terms of output and arguments.

a) Here is most basic use:

freebsd# /usr/sbin/iostat
tty ad0 cpu
tin tout KB/t tps MB/s us ni sy in id
1 561 45.18 44 1.95 14 0 5 0 82

b) Periodic watch of hdd i/o operations;

freebsd# iostat -c 10
tty ad0 cpu
tin tout KB/t tps MB/s us ni sy in id
1 562 45.19 44 1.95 14 0 5 0 82
0 307 51.96 113 5.73 44 0 24 0 32
0 234 58.12 98 5.56 16 0 7 0 77
0 43 0.00 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 99
0 485 0.00 0 0.00 2 0 0 0 98
0 43 0.00 0 0.00 0 0 1 0 99
0 43 0.00 0 0.00 0 0 0 0 100

As you see in the output, there is information like in the columns tty, tin, tout which is a bit hard to comprehend.
Thanksfully the tool has an option to print out only more essential i/o information:

freebsd# iostat -d -c 10
KB/t tps MB/s
45.19 44 1.95
58.12 97 5.52
54.81 108 5.78
0.00 0 0.00
0.00 0 0.00
0.00 0 0.00
20.48 25 0.50

The output info is quite self-explanatory.

Displaying a number of iostat values for hard disk reads can be also achieved by omitting -c option with:

freebsd# iostat -d 1 10

Tracking a specific hard disk partiotion with iostat is done with:

freebsd# iostat -n /dev/ad0s1a
tty cpu
tin tout us ni sy in id
1 577 14 0 5 0 81
c) Getting Hard disk read/write information with gstat

gstat is a FreeBSD tool to print statistics for GEOM disks. Its default behaviour is to refresh the screen in a similar fashion like top command, so its great for people who would like to periodically check all attached system hard disk and storage devices:

freebsd# gstat
dT: 1.002s w: 1.000s
L(q) ops/s r/s kBps ms/r w/s kBps ms/w %busy Name
0 10 0 0 0.0 10 260 2.6 15.6| ad0
0 10 0 0 0.0 10 260 2.6 11.4| ad0s1
0 10 0 0 0.0 10 260 2.8 12.5| ad0s1a
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 20.0| ad0s1b
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 0.0| ad0s1c
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 0.0| ad0s1d
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 0.0| ad0s1e
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 0.0| acd0

It even has colors if your tty supports colors 🙂

Another useful tool in debugging the culprit of excessive hdd I/O operations is procstat command:

Here is a sample procstat run to track (httpd) one of my processes imposing i/o hdd load:

freebsd# procstat -f 50404
50404 httpd cwd v d -------- - - - /
50404 httpd root v d -------- - - - /
50404 httpd 0 v c r------- 56 0 - -
50404 httpd 1 v c -w------ 56 0 - -
50404 httpd 2 v r -wa----- 56 75581 - /var/log/httpd-error.log
50404 httpd 3 s - rw------ 105 0 TCP ::.80 ::.0
50404 httpd 4 p - rw---n-- 56 0 - -
50404 httpd 5 p - rw------ 56 0 - -
50404 httpd 6 v r -wa----- 56 25161132 - /var/log/httpd-access.log
50404 httpd 7 v r rw------ 56 0 - /tmp/apr8QUOUW
50404 httpd 8 v r -w------ 56 0 - /var/run/accept.lock.49588
50404 httpd 9 v r -w------ 1 0 - /var/run/accept.lock.49588
50404 httpd 10 v r -w------ 1 0 - /tmp/apr8QUOUW
50404 httpd 11 ? - -------- 2 0 - -

Btw fstat is sometimes helpful in identifying the number of open files and trying to estimate which ones are putting the hdd load.
Hope this info helps someone. If you know better ways to track hdd excessive loads on Linux / BSD pls share 'em pls.